Tag Archives: Newington Green

Behind the Scenes: Filming an Interview with Professor Anna Birch

Having graduated from university in 2018, I thought my research days were behind me. However, an exciting opportunity to dust off my research skills arose when Lil Warren, Heritage Outcomes Manager at Unity Arts, told me of their latest project Blue Circle of Dissent. This National Lottery Funded project focusses on the lives, work, and circles around Mary Wollstonecraft and Blue Stockings Society leader Elizabeth Montagu.

My first independent assignment was to interview Wollstonecraft expert Professor Anna Birch for a short documentary film. Anna is the director of Fragments & Monuments, a company which creates performance and film work about the life and legacy of Wollstonecraft.

As I discovered, most of the work for producing a filmed interview takes place off-camera; this blog is to give you a behind-the-scenes insight into the process.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
I began by asking myself a question: what did I already know about Mary Wollstonecraft? Answer: that she was Mary Shelley’s mother, and that she wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), marking her as the first British feminist. There was a lot more to discover…
I read about Wollstonecraft and made notes on what I wanted to know more about. I became particularly intrigued by her travels: she went to live in France in 1792 – when the turbulent revolution was well underway – and travelled to Scandinavia in 1795 to recover a stolen ship in an attempt to win back her former lover.

In a series of meetings with Lil and the Digital Outputs Team, we decided that the interview with Anna would focus on Wollstonecraft as the pioneering female travel writer. I had also learnt three tips for filming day: don’t wear stripes, wear make-up, and wear bright colours. My monochromatic wardrobe struggled with this third tip, but as a wise man once said: two out of three ain’t bad.

When turning my research into questions, I wanted to create a narrative structure to help the interview flow. The questions would begin by setting the scene, asking Anna about her work and involvement with Wollstonecraft. Then we would turn to Wollstonecraft’s travels to France and Scandinavia, and finally her personal life and legacy, concluding with my favourite question: ‘what do you think Wollstonecraft would make of society today?’. With the questions finalised on paper, it was now time to bring them to life.

Lights, Camera…
Of course, I wasn’t working on this interview day alone. Lil was directing, Neil Webster from Edwin Louis Fear Films and Christian Smith were filming, and Sarah Warren was Production Assistant. On filming day, we met for a briefing before walking to Anna’s house (where we would have arrived earlier if my walking pace could match a Londoner’s!).

While Neil and Christian set up the filming equipment, Anna took Lil, Sarah and me up to her library for coffee. Although set-up took longer than anticipated (about an hour), it gave Anna and I valuable time to get to know each other off-screen. We had been to the same university, so we talked about its theatre scene and the lack of female writers on the reading lists, before moving on to Anna’s work with Fragments and Monuments. Anna and the company challenge the traditionally held definition of a monument as something static: they create living, dynamic ‘monuments’ to Wollstonecraft, such as walks that enable participants to trace Wollstonecraft’s footsteps in Stoke Newington. It struck me that our short film would also be a moving monument to the writer.

…Action!
With the all-clear from the crew, Anna and I took our seats at her kitchen table, under two fabulous STEWY prints of Wollstonecraft. Neil and Christian had set up two cameras ‘Parky style’: one at the front of the table with both of us in shot, and one behind my left shoulder for close-up shots of Anna – shots that I kept ‘dirtying’ by inadvertently moving into view!
We wanted the conversation to feel natural, so I listened carefully to Anna’s answers and would pick up on something she had said to link to the following question. Our time spent chatting beforehand really helped during the interview as it felt like a continuation of our conversation upstairs. This rapport translated onto the screen: Sarah said that we looked like we had known each other for years!

We filmed the interview in one take, pausing only once for Neil to reset his camera.  After wrapping, we had a post-interview debrief at the Luminary Bakery, and I then walked with Sarah to Newington Green to visit Wollstonecraft’s former stomping ground (and future site of her memorial sculpture).

“That’s a wrap” doesn’t signal the end of working on the film, as the editing process is just beginning.

Taking part in the interview was a wonderful experience that combined independent research with working as part of a team, all to create a work that will be shared with a wider audience. It was inspiring to meet passionate and knowledgeable creatives, and intellectually stimulating to research and discuss such a fascinating female figure.

I’m greatly looking forward to seeing the finished film, and to working with Unity Arts further on Blue Circle Of Dissent.

Ellen Gage

Location Photos by Christian Maier Smith

NEWINGTON GREEN BIRTHDAY PARTY!

On 27 & 28 April 2019

we celebrated the 260th birthday of

Mary Wollstonecraft

The 27 April saw a small gathering on the site of the proposed Wollstonecraft statue in Newington Green. The weather was awful but we managed to sing Happy Birthday, shoot a short film and begin the work on the STEWY  installation for next year.


Our large outside event on 28 April saw over 130 people gathered in very windy and cold weather to have a birthday picnic on Newington Green with a small installation

A specialist talk from Professor Anna Birch

Singers from St Mary’s Community

Extracts from Wollstonecraft’s short stories for Children by one of the Hackney Pirates Young Writers group

Songs of Rebellion from Young Dissenters Choir

We all lit candles and sang Happy Birthday!

And we ALL ate CAKE!


It nearly rained on us but everyone was very cheerful, the Lizzy’s Café, Newington Green Action Group, Fragments & Monuments and Dr Jenny Littlewood were so supportive and we had a lot of additional sign up for the project .

We hope everyone learnt something about the wonderful woman Mary Wollstonecraft and we look forward to all the research, trips and workshops coming up.

NEXT EVENT –  HALF TERM WORKSHOPS AT HOXTON HALL!

Photos by Sharron Wallace

 

 

 

 

 

WE CELEBRATE WOLLSTONECRAFT’S 260TH BIRTHDAY!

This weekend marks the 260th Birthday of Mary Wollstonecraft!

Unity Arts, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, are hosting two events to mark this important date.

On 27th April we will meet at 1230, each light a candle. At 1pm we will, sing and eat cake and live stream our presence at the proposed site of the Wollstonecraft statue on Newington Green.
At the same moment Professor Anna Birch will be presenting her Wollstonecraft film at Old St Pancras Church – the final resting place of the author of A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman. Please wear white or pale blue.

FREE tickets here 27 April Birthday

On 28th April our FREE family event on Newington Green will include a small installation, some Live Performances and CAKE!

FREE tickets here 28 April Birthday

See you there!

MAIN IMAGE USED BY KIND PERMISSION OF STEWY

 

BESPOKE TRAINING – Hackney Archives

As part of a week of training and workshops we are offering a FREE Archives Training session  at Hackney Archives Dalston Lane, London E8 3BQ (just above CLR James Library by Dalston Junction Station) on Thursday 25 April 6pm – 730pm.

The head archivist Elizabeth Green will be showing us how archives and primary sources can bring history alive and we will be looking at documents relevant to our research into Mary Wollstonecraft and  our Heritage project

BLUE CIRCLE OF DISSENT

a Marriage Settlement from mid 1700s (a shocking document to the modern eye), minutes from the Unitarian Church where Mary Wollstonecraft was a parishioner, local maps and more.

 

This training deepens understanding of how lives were led and sometimes leads to new discoveries. (e.g previously we have discovered household accounts which told us what was eaten “Upstairs” by the “master” and what was eaten “Downstairs” by the servants).

Places are very limited due to the nature of the session so please email us at unityarts@hotmail.co.uk or complete the form below to book a place

STEWY – Mary Wollstonecraft’s Birthday

Keep your eyes peeled! The Blue Circle Of Dissent Events are happening!

The National Heritage Lottery Fund is supporting us as we host a series of events to celebrate the

260th birthday of Mary Wollstonecraft on 27 & 28 April 2019!

Author of A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman and member of the congregation at Newington Green Unitarian Church (now New Unity) Wollstonecraft is also to be recognised in Newington Green with a statue.

Mary On The Green are working to make this happen!

The street artist STEWY is allowing us use of his iconic stencil of Hackney Heroine Mary Wollstonecraft.

And here is a short documentary about STEWY’S work and the Newington Green stencil.

STEWY & WOLLSTONECRAFT

HLF Fund Blue Circle Of Dissent!

TWO YEAR COMMUNITY RESEARCH PROJECT RECEIVES HLF SUPPORT!

Unity Arts have successfully bid for a National Lottery grant  from the Heritage Lottery Fund to support a two year project BLUE CIRCLE OF DISSENT. Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players.

The project will research the events, works and personalities that surrounded the lives and work of Mary Wollstonecraft and Blue Stockings Society leader, Elizabeth Montagu.

Elizabeth Montagu

Throughout the coming months Unity Arts will be platforming research, talks, training and events. Research visits will include, the National Portrait Gallery, Kenwood House and Strawberry Hill.

Strawberry Hill House

This project will create a series of free events. Events on 27 and 28 April 2019 (including an Outside Event on Newington Green) will be held to commemorate the birthday of radical Mary Wollstonecraft.

Events throughout the project will include an evening of literary presentations at Dr. Johnson’s House off Fleet Street. A community made event with specialist speaker in St Pancras.. An all-day installation at the Foundling Museum and a debate and installation at the Dissenters’ Gallery.

Please contact us for more information.